Nov 2020

Islam and Terrorism or Islam versus the West Connotation

By Dr Baba J Adamu

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If contemporary terrorism is to be accurately and thoroughly understood clinically and impartially, it is necessary at the outset to dispel one current political and religious myth: Islamic fundamentalism in the context of terrorism is a misnomer, since a true Muslim who adheres to the fundamental tenets of Islam must view terrorism as a serious crime and a blasphemy. Islam not only forbids acts of terrorism such as the killing of women, children and unarmed or surrendered combatants but also forbids the destruction of public and private properties, buildings, even the felling of a tree if it has a single green leaf on it is forbidden. Over one hundred thousand victims of terrorism in Algeria, Nigeria and across Africa, the Middle East were Muslims, and several hundred thousand Muslim police officers and soldiers, from all over the world, are directly engaged in fighting terrorism and have taken substantial casualties in doing so. Terrorism today can be attributed neither to the adherents to any single religion, but that a significant number of the more outrageous terrorist acts may be attributed to a small number of terrorists, who are entirely divorced from their religion, who distort it, and use it as a convenient cover to try to legitimize their actions in the popular minds.

Terrorists Perceived as Religious Fanatics or Jihadists: In recent times, the popular image of a terrorist group operating according to a specific ideological agenda and motivated by political or the desire for ethnic or national liberation dominated the understanding of terrorism. Today, the terrorist is largely perceived as sometimes a religious fanatic (see 4.1 - Goals and Motivations of Terrorists), who sets off bombs causing loss of life and great destruction in civilian population centers. While still true of some terrorist organizations, this image is no longer universally valid. Religion is a factor that causes increased resentment between political protagonists, even if it is not obvious.

The early association of religion with terrorism is perhaps the spectacular failures of Guy Fawkes' religiously inspired attempt to assassinate King James I and both Houses of Parliament in England. Today, most of those labelled "terrorists" rarely identify themselves as such, and typically use other euphemistic terms or terms specific to their situation, such as separatist, freedom fighter, liberator, revolutionary, vigilante, militant, paramilitary, guerrilla, rebel, mujaheddin, fedayeen, jihadist or any similar-meaning word in other languages. The concept of Islam and terrorism certainly requires clarification. It is important though to note a new turning point in the religion of Islam and terrorism. In 1998 al-Qaeda network, a terrorist organization was formed with a base in Afghanistan with Osama bin Laden as the leader who confessed to being the main architect behind the terrorist events of 11th September 2001 and several other major terrorist acts.

However, in the circumstances of the bombing of the US World Trade Centre, the US Embassy bombings in Nairobi and Dar es Salaam, the terrorist acts of 11th September 2001 and many other terrorist acts in the world, ranging back several decades, in which some Muslims have been indicted or convicted reflect two facts: Firstly, that some terrorist acts are committed by persons who incidentally happen to be Muslims but their religion is not relevant to the terrorist act. Secondly, some Muslims commit terrorist acts, misusing, distorting and projecting the name of Islam. In both cases, the terrorists have an ulterior or a political motive and only use religion or other reason as a mere tool to justify their acts. However, this differentiation is not always appreciated by some sectors of the media who tend to equate all terrorism by Muslims as so-called fundamentalist Islam and under the banner of Jihad (holy struggle or war). This is entirely inaccurate. Yet other media sources automatically attribute Islam to any terrorists who happen to be ethnic Arabs or of Middle Eastern origin; a result of a widespread misconception that all Arabs are Muslims.

This is, however, incorrect as national and ethnic Arab populations include Muslims, Jews and Christians among their numbers. A large number of Israeli Jews are ethnic Arabs. Other related widespread misconceptions are that Iranians or Persians are also Arabs, which is incorrect and that anti-Semitism is hatred of Jews, when in fact it is hatred for the many different Semitic races, including Jews and Arabs. One of the results of these misconceptions has been to wrongly simplify some conflicts and boil them down to facile slogans such as Islam versus the West, and Islam equals Jihad, which is totally and equivocally wrong.

It should further be noted that the word often incorrectly attached to Islamic terrorism is Jihad (Arabic - from Jihad / Jihada - to make an effort or struggle). The word means, by translation and theological tradition, a holy struggle, especially spiritual, against evil, injustice or personal imperfection. It may be fulfilled in four ways; by using the heart, tongue, hand or sword. In contemporary use, except by terrorists, it denotes an effort against something either personally negative or detracting from the common social good, and is used mostly as a last resort. There are many such Jihads. For example, A Jihad on a litter to clean up an area, or a Jihad on one’s self when encountering difficulties achieving a personal goal, such as studying. In simple terms, it can be considered as a self-motivating effort to do some good, underpinned by prayer. Misunderstanding or misuse of the word Jihad by sections of the media is not confined to the media. Several umbrella organizations, religious clerics and spiritual leaders, based in the Middle East, Western Asia, and Africa; and in and around the Indian subcontinent constantly misuse the banners of Islam and Jihad to legitimize terrorist actions. This is especially so concerning the Middle East dispute, continuing since the 1948 war, or in the Jammu & Kashmir dispute, since 1947. In reality, some terrorists belong, by birth, to all of the major religions of the world. Many carry out terrorist acts without any overt or covert religious motive or consciousness. Some carry out terrorist acts and justify them by twisting their respective religious doctrines, while others conceal religious intolerance with other motives like cultures, ethnicity or marginalization. A few of these terrorists and their religious clerics have persuaded themselves that God has conferred upon them, the right to slaughter, punish and reward others, on a religious basis, as they see fit. Like in the case of the “Maitatsine” religious violence in the ancient city of Kano state and Maiduguri, Jos and Kaduna cities in Nigeria during the 80s, killing 4,177 people (official figure) with millions of naira worth of properties destroyed.

This ‘punishment’ has been shown to include the ruthless and savage slaughtering of innocent men, women and children. Similarly, the reprisal attack by the Boko Haram sect to cause panic and confusion among the residents and act against the government and its security agents in the Nigerian cities of Borno, Maiduguri and the neighbouring towns of Damaturu, the Yobe State in 2009; or the al-Qaeda and ISIS acts of terrorism worldwide. Rational minds must, without sentiments realize that the vast majority of adherents to the major faiths in the world are peaceful and law-abiding citizens who follow religious doctrines that condemn terrorism; their inability to suppress terrorism and belonging to the same religious group does not make them terrorists.

To persistently expound and associate terrorism as a confederation with one or more of the major world religions is an exercise in disinformation, perhaps for political reasons. Its results, however, are that it helps foment religious hatred and is counter-productive to understanding and suppressing terrorism. In the Middle East conflict, there are several terrorist groups, who happen to be comprised of Muslims that oppose Israel (Zionism). Doubtless, religious enmity exists to a degree, on a personal basis, amongst some members on all sides of the dispute, as an aggravating factor. However, the formal and stated standing points of the Middle East governments are that: The Israeli government does not discriminate on religious grounds; this is a fact verified by the many Muslim and Christian Israelis living freely within their populations. In support of this fact, there were from 1985 until 1999, up to 10,000 Christians (mainly) and Muslims fighting in their surrogate militia, the South Lebanese Army or SLA. The Arabic countries surrounding Israel do not discriminate on religious grounds; this is a fact verified by the many Jewish and Christian citizens freely living within their populations. Furthermore, their openly stated standpoint is that they do not oppose Jews, only Zionists (most of whom they consider as political extremists who coincidentally happen to be Jewish, and some few, Christian). The International Islamic Front to Fight Jews and Crusaders, like the closely related al-Qaeda network, is a landmark departure from other Middle East groups of Christian, Jewish or Muslim terrorists. This group is fanatical.

Another misconception is something all terrorist attacks have in common, an act perpetrated for a political purpose. Terrorism is a political tactic, not unlike letter writing or protesting, that is used by activists when they believe no other means will affect the kind of change they desire. The change is desired so badly that failure is seen as a worse outcome than the deaths of civilians. This is often where the interrelationship between terrorism and religion occurs. When a political struggle is integrated into the framework of a religious or "cosmic" struggle, such as over the control of an ancestral homeland or holy sites such as Israel and Jerusalem, failing in the political goal (nationalism) becomes equated with spiritual failure, which, for the highly committed, is worse than their death or the deaths of innocent civilians. To further clarify that some proportion placed on the issue of Muslims and non-Muslims committing terrorism.

Islamic Radicalization: The majority of Islamic extremists act under quasi-Islamic slogans, specifically, that is why there is the need to intensify religious education. More work is needed to intensify religious education and work with religious leaders to promote a peaceful and correct understanding of Islam. Governments must take several initiatives like introducing courses on the history of religions, Islam and the culture of tolerance into school curriculum; and expand Islamic studies in universities and tertiary schools, while efforts should be made to develop counter-narratives for students and increase engagement with faith communities or projects on inter - or intra-religious dialogue, most especially to address the issue of indoctrination and radicalization. Also, tackling this kind of radicalization cannot be solved through military solutions: it requires measures to increase the literacy of the population especially youths and their online resources; create jobs and socially build resiliency to recruitment, to take people out of social exclusion, brainwashing and isolation.

In building resilience to recruitment, the government needs to enhance the role of community leaders, civil society groups, religious leaders, and families to build resilience against violent extremism; increasing the level of education and employment and correlate them together; while enhancing the role of local government authorities and increasing the effectiveness of states to offer social intervention, protection and opportunities. The government must also recognize the positive influence of religion and supporting traditional and cultural leaders play and development of sport and education programs to promote national values among young people, promote small businesses and entrepreneurship, organizing job fairs etc. while providing support to economic development and job creation, livelihoods enhancement, public service provisions, good governance and peacebuilding from below; and rule of law, etc. All these fall within the sustainable development goals of the UN and non-security social sectors.

Every country wants to get rid of the scourge of terrorism, and the prevention of radicalization is top on the agenda. But if some individuals or groups who were either brainwashed, recruited or were about to be radicalized suddenly realized that the direction they were going was not good and they wanted to repent, the authorities could give them amnesty, design adequate interventions and put them into it. The interventions should include some sort of rehabilitation as a better option to tackle down the scourge, following the ideology of dialogue, peace and understanding. Dialogue is essential because it would look at why and how promoting good governance, human rights (HR) and rule of law could help prevent grievances, which in turn could lead to positive engagement with the citizens; and also with the violent extremist groups. In other words, violating human rights while conducting counter-terrorism (CT) could lead to more insecurities. States should protect everyone within their jurisdiction against terrorist acts, and they should do so in compliance with international human rights law.

Anti-terrorism measures that fail to respect human rights and compassion are counter-productive, not least because a lack of respect for human rights constitutes in many ways a condition conducive to terrorism. CT measures that fail to respect HR play into the hands of terrorists and terrorist recruiters who seek to undermine security, social cohesion and human rights. At the same time, human rights-based CT measures can increase operational effectiveness. This understanding is at the core of the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE)’s comprehensive concept of security and it is enshrined in pillar 4 of the United Nations (UN) Global counter-terrorism (CT) Strategy. In this case, right at the unset, it is therefore important to understand individual motivations for surrendering, as well as gender roles to design adequate interventions. Besides, it is much better to understand women’s roles and applying a gender approach to the prevention of violent extremism.

UN Plan of Action to Prevent Violent Extremism: In the 2015 Plan of Action to Prevent Violent Extremism, the UN Secretary-General encouraged Member States to develop National Action Plans (NAPs), which set “priorities for addressing the local drivers of violent extremism and [complement] national counter-terrorism CT strategies where they already exist”. The preparation of Preventing Violent Extremism (PVE) Action plans are not a substitution for CT Strategies, but complementary. Prevention measures related to the regulation of conflicts, dialogues, addressing socio-economic grievances, promoting human rights in the fight against terrorism are all duly recognized in Pillars 1 and 4 of the comprehensive UN CT Strategy and its regional Joint Plan of Action (JPoA) adopted in Central Asia. PVE plans to target the process of radicalization and recognize its roots and manifestations.

To this end, the UN has taken forward an action plan about preventing violent extremism, formalized towards the end of 2015. It supports the need to understand both structural and individual factors associated with patterns of radicalization. Vulnerable individuals facing a lack of opportunity, in the global north and the global south, without forms of guidance, governance or leadership from their communities or the state, may turn to alternative political or ideological manifestations of resistance, that may or may not lead to violent extremism. In particular, in the global south, issues of development, corruption, tribalism and militarism have left behind youth populations suffering low education and high unemployment rates. This leads to a deep sense of hopelessness and frustration, which encourages some to seek various forms of self-realization and self-actualization based on self-annihilation. The latter also affects certain Muslim minority groups in different parts of Western Europe, but also far-right groups. Both camps are angry and frustrated at their ‘left behind’ status, where traditional forms of masculinity are also being challenged, leading to anomie, alienation and ultimately, in the case of Muslim minority groups, angry young men and women who choose (through a lack of choice) to adhere to a limited understanding of certain interpretations of the scriptures.

Of far-right groups, theirs is a reaction to the impact of globalization on eroding national identities. It stems from the fear of differences associated with policies of multiculturalism, now been debunked by many, as well as the revulsion of the other, whether as a result of immigration or because of existing minority groups. This fear continues to linger in regards to various cultural forms of expression that impact on the lived experience. It also leads to accusations of ‘self-ghettoization’ concerning Muslim minorities. Preventing violent extremism projects are aimed at stopping individuals from taking a path towards extremism and violence, whereas the notion of countering violent extremism focuses on pushing back about individuals who have already made a significant way down the road of extremism and violence.

There are several reasons why the preparation of a PVE NAP can be beneficial: It provides an opportunity to reflect critically on the effectiveness of past approaches and interventions; It helps define the nature of the threat, as well as aims, objectives, targets and priorities; It allocates roles and responsibilities and holds agencies accountable; It also lays the foundation for a common understanding and more systematic dialogue with donors. Successful PVE Plans include both security and non-security components of governments (Whole of Government) as well as provide dialogue and shared responsibilities, not just among government agencies but also in partnership with civil society, private sector, academia etc. (Whole of Society). As such, they recognize women, youth and communities not just as vulnerable subjects but also as actors of change. The involvement of civil society organizations, the private sector and academia has proven beneficial for a variety of reasons: It widens ownership, hence improving the effectiveness of the policies and strategies by sharing responsibility for implementation and deflating resistance to top-down strategies. Consultations with and involvement of civil society organizations (CSOs) also help create mechanisms to understand the impact of policies while tapping into the knowledge of local contexts, drivers, and evolving trends. CSOs have expertise and experiences, innovation and flexibility that can help recognize and tackle radicalization to violent extremism in communities.

An analysis of global experiences shows that good National Action Plans (NAPs) are those that:

  • Have been created based on an analysis of the situation, one that has identified threats and drivers of radicalization and recruitment to violent extremism;

  • Build on existing sectoral programs and strategies, creating bridges between security and non-security strategies (such as Sustainable Development, gender equality, youth programs, employment, sustainable development goals (SDGs), etc.);

  • Set priorities for C/PVE activities and concrete, measurable goals;

  • Clarify roles, responsibilities and tasks of all implementing partners;

  • Make clear links between women’s empowerment, participation and prevention of radicalization, indoctrination;

  • Are allocated adequate budget for implementation, both from government budget and donor support;

  • Include measurable indicators for monitoring and evaluation;

  • Are accompanied by a comprehensive communication strategy to raise public awareness;

  • Are regularly monitored, including with the help of civil society and academia, and are adjusted based on the results.

Some several risks and challenges need to be taken into account in the preparation and especially the implementation of NAPs. The pressure to produce them could lead to a tendency to skip the consultation process. CSOs and other partners may not have enough capacity to impact the agenda. Monitoring and Evaluation (M&E) indicators are often underdeveloped: they are either too broad or too precise, making it difficult to gather evidence on the effectiveness of programs. Another important problem is that of lack of budgeting for implementation: many NAPs rely too much on donor funding because they include non-security, ‘soft’ interventions and do not benefit from separate budgets from the State. In the final analysis, the biggest challenge remains that of implementation: NAPs can be adopted with broad consultation and look good on paper, but little action is taken for implementation, showing little commitment to the prevention agenda.

Therefore, the challenges going forward relate to a better understanding of what works in different contexts and how we can best utilize this knowledge to improve practice in the areas of interest and beyond. There is also the question of the wider political context in which this policy and community development projects are carried out, such that there are dramatically shifting terrain at a geopolitical level, which potentially creates more challenges than opportunities, in the current period. While preventing and countering violent extremism projects can go a long way to assisting vulnerable individuals and communities, they do not operate in a vacuum. These problems are not going to go away overnight. Successful projects need to be highlighted as best practice for other regions and countries to benefit from. Sharing this is not as easy as it would seem as every NGO and CSO is immersed in many areas of work, combined with all the resource allocation challenges that come with institutions, big or small, constantly searching to sustain their activities in a charged climate.

Anti-Muslim racism in a Post-Race State: Racism and its associated discriminations are not individual biases neither are the practices of past eras. Racism is varied, wide-reaching, normative and thriving in contemporary society. Despite their differences, both critical race theory and Postcolonial theory have played an important role in advancing social scientific understanding of how “race” and racism are constructed and used to sustain a hierarchy of social order and associated practices of racial oppression. Critical race theorists, such as Derek Bell and Kimberle Crenshaw, and earlier scholars aligned with the perspective, Frederick Douglass, Sojourner Truth and W.E.B. Du Bois suggested that society is full of anti-black races, which operate at all levels of society. These are not only found in individual minds but social relationships and structural practices. There is therefore a more systematic operation of racism that is being delivered through social, economic and political means. This is still a valid point that is often ignored when examining instances of race-hate in contemporary society.

Besides, Postcolonial theorists like Said and Fanon, have sought to understand the cultural legacy of colonialism and imperialism, especially for those native populations who were subjected to “civilizing” control measures and economic exploitation. They postulated that “the West” had for centuries defined itself through portraying the Eastern “Orient” as its polar opposite. In the analysis of material produced in the West during the colonial period, Said found disturbing and fantastical geography of West vs. East, one in which the West’s depiction of itself as “civilized” and “advanced” depended on the degradation of Asian and Middle Eastern cultures as “barbaric” and “backwards.”. It is argued that the West vs. East fantastical re-presentation continues to be used to control and regulate “brown bodies (colour people)” though, a very specific way in which this is done in the post-race era.

The claim that the world is now living in post-race times attempts to devoid claims of race-making and racism. It is a claim that is based on the view that society has progressed so far with race equality, that specific considerations of racialized discrimination are now obsolete. To support this claim, progress in a variety of areas were highlighted, with the ultimate illustration being the inauguration of Barack Hussein Obama as the President of the United States of America in 2009. Ironically, the country that in recent years has witnessed an increase in the number of black deaths at the hands of the police and others claiming to undertake “policing” work, for example, Michael Brown, Davis “Caine” Rogers, Terence Crutcher, and Trayvon Martin, to name a few, with the death of the last triggering the Black Lives Matter movement (Black Lives Matter, 2012). Trayvon Martin was a 17-year-old African American who was fatally shot by George Zimmerman, an armed neighbourhood watch volunteer, in Sanford, Florida in February 2012.

Zimmerman was later acquitted of manslaughter and second-degree murder, although allegations were rife of him being motivated by racism and having racially profiled Martin. Barack Obama inadvertently added to this suggestion in his comment to reporters following the shooting: “When I think about this boy, I think about my kids, and I think every parent in America should be able to understand why we must investigate every aspect of this … If I had a son, he would look like Trayvon.” (President Obama, cited in The Guardian, 2012). The Martin case and others like it challenges the idea of a non-racially biased state. It demonstrates that structural racism remains a key feature of US societies, and that race not only matters but for many, it remains a matter of life and death as in the case of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor.

On May 25, 2020, George Floyd, a 46-year-old black man, was killed in Minneapolis, Minnesota, while being arrested for allegedly using a counterfeit bill. He died after Derek Chauvin, a white police officer with the Minneapolis Police Department, knelt on Floyd's neck for about nine and a half minutes after he was already handcuffed and lying face down. The incident sparked international protests against racism and police brutality – but in the wake of this mass call for change, police are still killing Black men and women at disproportionate rates in the USA. Breonna Taylor, a 26-year-old African-American woman, was fatally shot in her Louisville, Kentucky apartment on March 13, 2020, when police officers Jonathan Mattingly, Brett Hankison, and Myles Cosgrove of the Louisville Metro Police Department (LMPD) forced entry into the apartment as part of an investigation into drug dealing operations. Using databases from Mapping Police Violence and the Washington Post, CBS News has compiled a list of 164 Black men and women who were killed by police from January 1 to August 31, 2020. Many of the cases remain under investigation. This data is based on reported and verified cases and does not necessarily account for all incidents in which a person was killed by police. But based on the known cases, police have killed at least one Black person every week since January 1, and only two states - Rhode Island and Vermont - have reported no killings by police so far in 2020. In 2019, 259 Black people were killed by police in the United States. This compares to 182 Hispanics, 13 Native Americans, and 406 White people. The rate of police shootings of Black Americans is much higher than any other ethnicity, at 30 per million people. This rate stands at 23 per million for Hispanics and 12 per million for Whites.

Therefore, the claim to a post-race state is not only incorrect, but it is more damaging for black populations, who are still at greater risk of discriminatory practices. It is argued in other work of Patel, that society not only remains marked out by racialized processes but claims to a post-race state have allowed racially biased practices to unapologetically and unashamedly thrive. It does this by first presenting discrimination as something emerging from naturally occurring segregation practices.

Also, occurring in the post-race state is the increased categorization, surveillance and control of some populations using the claim of “a measured response” to increased security concerns. This claim suggests that although there may be a heavier focus on members of the Muslim population, this is proportionate to the threat and that aside, this level of response does not even constitute actual racism, given that Muslims are not perceived to be a “race”. Here, there emerges a denial of racism by making distinctions between Islamophobia and racism and misinterpreting the category of the latter. Islamophobia is considered to be a fear of the religion of Islam (ideas and practices), rather than hostility towards a racial group per se (racism). And, given that Muslims are not considered to be a group defined by race, the perception is that they cannot experience racism. As Sayyid (2008: 1) writes: “The figure of the Muslim is vital for this racism without racists. Because Muslims are not a race, any forms of discrimination and violence disproportionately directed at them is thinkable and doable. Because Muslims are not a race the systemic violations directed against them cannot be racially motivated”. A by-product then of the “measured response” claim is the suggestion that it is somehow acceptable to be Islamophobic on the basis that their fear of religion is genuine, logical and non-racial. This not only deflects accusations of racism but also situates Islamophobes in a more favourable position.

To overcome this conceptual flaw, the term “anti-Muslim racism” is used to describe a type of hostility towards Muslims that uses cultural racism, which is a particular type of discrimination against all those perceived to be Muslim that is in itself determined by ideas about physical appearance (the wearing of the hijab or burqa), religious custom (prayer or observation of Ramadan), and biological features (brown skin), which result in a sense of post-colonial superiority over all those considered to be Muslim. The term “anti-Muslim racism” emphasizes that racism is not exclusively biologically determined, but that it is something which is a socio-politically produced experience as postulated by (Sayyid and Vakil, 2010; Tyrer, 2013). Cultural racisms such as anti-Muslim racism reproduce the idea that there is a hierarchy of cultures, which in Western society means that “our” Western culture is superior to “their” Islamic one. This was most recently illustrated with the massive increase in reports of anti-Muslim racism following Britain’s “Brexit” vote in 2016. From the very start, the “leave” campaign relied heavily on a convergence of anti-immigrant xenophobia and anti-Muslim racism (despite the latter not having a logical relation to EU membership). The first simultaneously drew on and legitimated the latter. Within the “socially fabricated distinctions between Europeanness and non-Europeanness” (Sayyid, 2008: 1) lives the persistent presence of the postcolonial fantasy!

In drawing on historical feelings of disgust towards Muslim populations, along with ideas about failed multiculturalism, a lack of community cohesion, and the need for tighter border controls and national security (prevention of terrorist activity), nations have used “a narrative which connects race with culture with multiculturalism with national identity with community cohesion with wider social relations” around crime and security. This “logic” has resulted in attempts to further control brown bodies (coloured people) at every possible level, including the wearing of clothing often associated with Muslims. For instance, in 2011, France banned the wearing of the Islamic veil in public places, Quebec, in Canada did the same. In France, it is punishable with fines of up to 150 Euros, the 2011 ban added to the 2004 ban on hijabs in France’s state schools. Later, in 2016, several French towns banned the wearing of a “burkini” (the term used in the media to refer to a swimsuit that covers most of the body and which is mostly worn by Muslim women).

Reasons for the ban cited health concerns, security issues, assimilation agendas, as well as gender equality issues. Unsurprisingly, there has been a rise in the number of reported racist attacks, which have specifically used visual markers of Muslim-ness as a focus of hate, for example, bearded men being attacked and (women especially) having clothing forcibly removed or torn off (Allen, 2004; Mythen and Khan, 2009; Carr, 2014), although ironically the wearing of a Muslim-typed bear has become world fashion. More recently, in March 2017, the European Court of Justice ruled that companies could ban its staff from wearing visible religious symbols whilst at work. Although the ruling covered the wearing of symbols of any religion, it was openly welcomed by those of the right of the political spectrum who had been pre-occupied with women wearing Islamic headscarves in the workplace (The Guardian, 2017). In the post-race state, visual markers (such as items of customary dress) are seen as active choices, and this view allows for victimization blame to be firmly laid at the feet of Muslims, with the premise that they are responsible for actively choosing to wear markers of difference and in doing so reject and offend mainstream society. In other words, they are choosing to remain uncivilized.

Another consequence of this logic is the rise of far-right groups “from ‘street’ through ‘quasi-legitimate’ to ‘mainstream’ who have found a greater platform from which to publicize their views, messages and arguments” (Allen, 2004: 8). Indeed, several newer emerging far-right groups have specifically focused on the “Muslim threat”, for example, Pegida (translated from German: Patriotic Europeans against the Islamization of the West). The visuality of Muslim-ness has now come to be presented as incompatible and in contrast with the “norms” of Western society (Allen, 2004: 12); here taken to mean civilized society. Furthermore, the perception of Muslims as hostile and resistant to change further presents them as the enemy within who pose a threat of terrorism and to the western liberal way of life. This has allowed for debates about counter-terrorism (CT), immigration and citizenship to become blurred, with a policy on one being used to support the other. It has also allowed for a revised narrative of the “white man’s burden” which presents such attempts to control brown bodies as “a humanitarian intervention, which only wants to spread democracy, to domesticate unruly Muslims (Sayyid, 2008: 1).

Criminalizing Muslims through Counter-Terror Measures: For clarity, it is important to recognize the fact that in recent years there have been many terrible terrorist incidents around the world which have been carried out by groups and individuals declaring themselves to be acting in the name of Islam, for instance, the attacks in America in 2001, on London’s public transport system in 2005, the Bali bombing in 2002, Madrid train bombings in 2004, Charlie Hebdo in 2015, and, the Tunisian beach attack in 2015; and all other atrocities and terrorist acts committed by a small number of extremist in the name of Islam, which has been argued that their acts do not represent the views of millions of Muslims across the globe. What is, however, illustrated here is the use of anti-Muslim racism to further amplify the situation and construct all or the majority of Muslims as potential terrorists.

Counter-terrorism measures have been criticized for their over-focus on all Muslims, and for their simplistic, generic and one-dimensional notions of Islam (Kundnani, 2009; Pantazis and Pemberton, 2009; Bonino, 2013; Patel, 2017). This has presented the nonsensical view that extremism and radicalization are inherent within Muslim culture. It is a logic that presents all Muslims as extremists, rather than problematizing the extremist mindset of individuals themselves. Anti-Muslim racism has seen the state and its allied services construct Muslims through a language of disobedience, deviance and criminality, which is in itself considered to be built on anti-Western hostility and history of Orientalism (Said, 1979). Within the “war on terror” context, this means that there is an easy acceptance in lay society of “the dangerous brown man”, an adaptation of earlier racist mythologies around the “dangerous black man”, which is used to both represent and sustain racialized anxieties. Rooted in these anxieties is the idea that Muslims are uncivil, inferior and inhumane. This logic not only helps to justify their unequal treatment in society but also helps to ensure that accusations of abuse and torture by the state are viewed with relatively little sympathy. As Kundnani (2007: 126) notes, “to be a “Muslim” in the “war on terror” is to belong to a group with common origins, a shared culture and a monolithic identity that can be held collectively responsible for terrorism, segregation and the failure of multiculturalism”. Muslims are not just seen to be deviant or even criminal, but they are considered to be the worse type of criminal, the fundamentalist terrorist, different from comparatively humanistic terrorists of yester-year. The “Islamic terrorist” indiscriminately targets all Western-civilians, including it most vulnerable and precious: women and children, little wonder why US President Donald Trump immediately after his inauguration instituted the Muslim Ban to the united states.

Executive Order 13769, titled Protecting the Nation from Foreign Terrorist Entry into the United States, politically labelled as a Muslim Ban by detractors or a travel ban by supporters, was an executive order by United States President Donald Trump. Except for the extent to which it was blocked by various courts, it was in effect from January 27, 2017, until March 6, 2017, when it was superseded by Executive Order 13780. Executive Order 13769 lowered the number of refugees to be admitted into the United States in 2017 to 50,000, suspended the U.S. Refugee Admissions Program (USRAP) for 120 days, suspended the entry of Syrian refugees indefinitely, directed some cabinet secretaries to suspend entry of those whose countries do not meet adjudication standards under U.S. immigration law for 90 days, and included exceptions on a case-by-case basis. The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) lists these countries as Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, and Yemen. More than 700 travellers were detained, and up to 60,000 visas were "provisionally revoked"

Underpinned by older (immigration) concerns of “civilizing” Muslim populations, newer counter-terrorism measures have allowed for a wider-reaching remit of control of Muslims. For instance, in the United Kingdom, there was the extending of the 2000 Terrorism Act (Home Office, 2000), which actively designated Muslims as dangerous, suspect and in need of control (Pantazis and Pemberton, 2009: 652). The 2000 Act criminalized a range of activities associated with several proscribed organizations, which included supporting or attending meetings of said organizations. Subsequent amendments to the 2000 Act increased the number of proscribed organizations, with most newly added organizations being associated with countries where Islam is the main faith. There was also an extension of stop and search powers under sections 44 and 45, allowing for practice to be undertaken without the need for reasonable suspicion. Unlike the 1984 Police and Criminal Evidence Act (Home Office, 1984), the police officer did not need to have “reasonable suspicion” for the stop and search. The Act was later followed by the anti-Terrorism, Crime and Security Act 2001 (Home Office, 2001); the Prevention of Terrorism Act 2005 (Home Office, 2005); the Terrorism Act 2006 (Home Office, 2006); the Counter-Terrorism Act 2008 (Home Office, 2008); and, the Counter-Terrorism and Security Act 2015 (Home Office, 2015a). In combination, these Acts have over-criminalized Muslim populations, and have made “legal” their enhanced status as sources of risk and consequently their vulnerability to victimization by the state, especially about police stop and search practices.

However, counter-terror measures allow for the criminalization of Muslims to occur more widely and at a much earlier age. For instance, consider the UK’s CONTEST strategy (Home Office, 2011). Launched in 2003, and since revised, CONTEST claims to work with “mainstream Islam” to “undermine extremist ideologies, identify and support individuals who are vulnerable to recruitment, increase the capacity of communities to resist violent extremists, and understand real and perceived grievances” This civilizing narrative draws on anti-Muslim racism to perpetuate the idea of Muslims as a “suspect” community, even in these post-race times! For instance, in theory, CONTEST is directed at tackling all forms of radicalization and extremism, including far-right activity, but in practice, it has heavily over-focused on the Muslim population (Coppock and McGovern, 2014: 245). The problem here is that there is an over-emphasis on national and cultural supremacy, which brings with it the danger of a biased and inaccurate education. The teaching of “values” is not the point of contention; rather it is the packaging of “democracy, rule of law, individual liberty, and mutual respect and tolerance” as being essentially Western values. Besides, it reinforces the perception of young Muslims being susceptible to extremism, which counter-terror approaches then equate with susceptibility to radicalization and terrorist activity, meaning that young Muslims are “constituted as “vulnerable” in politically powerful ways, as the “would-be terrorist” (Coppock and McGovern, 2014: 242). Their “Islamic” and “child” selves are both dangerous and in need of saving, and they become marked as “appropriate objects for state intervention and surveillance” (Coppock and McGovern, 2014: 242).

In combination, these and other counter-terrorism measures draw on somewhat normalized notions of the “Islamic terrorist” to justify and gather support for discriminatory practices. They continue to construct Muslims as suspicious bodies with criminal tendencies, in need of increased surveillance, control and regulation and thus legitimize a pre-emptive, interventionist and securitizing approach. Any negative impact that they may have on the Muslim population is considered to be relatively justified, almost as collateral damage in comparison to the perceived wider threat. In this sense, Muslims are not considered worthy of human rights, they are after all goes the civilizing logic, rejecting attempts to assimilate and be part of Western civil society. This logic is not unique or new to Muslims in post-colonial Britain or the USA, or Europe for that matter. Recall for instance the use of this logic in the treatment of other races around the world, for instance, Australia’s Aborigines, Native Americans, New Zealand’s Maori, and the African Slaves transported across the Atlantic. In all these cases, attempts were made to excuse and justify exploitative behaviour on the basis that the (exploited) subjects were naturally positioned, either biologically, intellectually or in accordance to Providence, as inferior thus, legitimized, morally at least, that their control was necessary and good for society as a whole. 

Terrorist acts committed by Muslims misusing a distorted banner of Islam are in Algeria, Angola, Egypt, France, Kashmir, Kenya, Nigeria, India, Israel, Jordan, Lebanon, Pakistan, Philippines, South Africa, Syria, Tanzania, Turkey, Tunisia, United States, Former Yugoslavia and several other countries; whereas

Terrorist acts committed by non-Muslims have been recorded in Angola, Argentina, Austria, Belgium, Bolivia, Colombia, Cyprus, Ecuador, El Salvador, France, Germany, India, Israel, Italy, Japan, Greece, Lebanon, Mexico, Myanmar, Nicaragua, Northern Ireland, Panama, Papua New Guinea, Peru, Rwanda, Sierra Leone, Spain, Sudan, Sumatra, Turkey, Uganda, United Kingdom, United States, Former Yugoslavia, Venezuela, and several other countries.

The Ideology of Peace: The ideology behind establishing Islamic rule all over the world is by a handful of people, which is leading to the present-day violence. These extreme groups of people have become obsessed with this ideology and are trying to establish the political rule of Islam, thinking it to be their ticket to paradise. Having failed to achieve this objective of establishing Islamic rule by the peaceful method, they started resorting to terrorism; the idea being that if they cannot eliminate the non-Islamic rule, then let them at least de-stabilize it. But according to the interpretation of Islam by the teachings in the Qur’an and Hadith, the Ideology of Peace as followed by Prophet Muhammad (WAS) and his early followers, is based upon peace, compassion and tolerance. Islam means peace and peace is always desirable for its own sake, and every other desirable state comes after peace, not along with it.


Islam teaches one to be tolerant and achieve peace for its own sake, which opens opportunities and creates favourable conditions for one to strive for their best, eventually attaining justice and other constructive ends with patient and tolerance. This is the ideology of peace. This ideology of peace, based on the sources of Islam, can counter the ideology of violence. The Prophet Muhammad provides a very clear historical example of this in his method of negotiating the Hudaybiyya peace treaty. On this occasion, he brought matters to a successful conclusion by unilaterally accepting all the conditions of his opponents. In this peace treaty, the Prophet had not received justice or his rights.


But what was in effect a 10-year no-war pact, allowed the Prophet to work uninterruptedly on a constructive program that would otherwise have been impossible. Utilizing this peaceful non-political pact, the Prophet and his companions were able to consolidate themselves with no need to wage war: they were able to take control of Makkah peacefully. From this example and many in the Qur’an, it is clearly understood that there is no room for violence in Islam.


The ideology of Islam banishes the notion that there can be anything acceptable about terrorism. Islam is a completely peaceful religion and so its method. Because of the importance of peace, the Qur’an has declared that no aggressive war is permitted in Islam. Muslims can engage themselves only in a defensive, not in an offensive war, irrespective of the circumstances (Qur’an 2:190). The Qur’an also states ‘reconciliation is the best’ (Qur’an 4:128). The Qur’an has this to say of the mission of the Prophet Muhammad: "We have not sent you forth but as a mercy to mankind." (Qur’an 21:107); and the Prophet Muhammad used to entreat his Lord in his daily prayer:

"O God, You are the source of Peace; from You is all Peace, and to You returns all Peace. So, make us live with Peace; and let us enter paradise: the House of Peace. Blessed be You, our Lord, to whom belongs all Majesty and Honour!”


It is also clearly written in the Qur’an 2:62:

Surely, those who believe (in the Qur'an), And those who follow the Jewish (scriptures), And the Christians, the converts; anyone who (1) believes in God, and (2) believes in the Last Day, and (3) leads a righteous life, shall have their reward with their Lord: on them Shall be no fear, nor shall they grieve. (Qur'an 2:62)

The simple conclusion to draw as to the causes of terrorism today can be attributed neither to the adherents to any single ethnicity, religion, poverty or social class but that a significant number of the more outrageous terrorist acts may be attributed to a small number of terrorists, who have an ulterior or a political motive and use religion or other reason as a mere tool to justify their acts; and they are entirely divorced from their enclave: social class, religion, culture or ethnic background who distort it and use it as a convenient cover to try to legitimize their actions in the popular minds. But under sub-measures of the world counter-terror, the surveillance discourse serves to control and regulate Muslims' perception of terrorism and the undertone of Western values and national security narrative, which continue to normalize and perpetuate anti-Muslim sentiment and construct Muslims as “suspect” communities at every possible opportunity. This ensures that anti-Muslim racism remains a key feature of contemporary western society, which is unfortunate. Read more in 2.3 Islam and Terrorism or Islam versus the West Connotation. It may be difficult, perhaps impossible, to stop a determined individual who wants to commit an act of terrorism if they get through every security check, but some things can be done to prevent, stop and limit the acts and the spread of extremist violence and radicalization of young people; and divert their support.



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